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Panel urges Falmouth to adopt energy-efficiency requirements for homes, buildings

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Panel urges Falmouth to adopt energy-efficiency requirements for homes, buildings

FALMOUTH — The Green Ribbon Commission is recommending the town require homeowners and builders to produce energy efficiency ratings for their projects before they can obtain building permits or certificates of occupancy.

Proof of the the ratings would also have to be supplied to real estate agents and home buyers at the time of resale.

The 15-member committee has been meeting for more than a year to come up with a plan to help the town and its residents work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The recommendations it brought to the Town Council on Monday reflected steps dealing specifically with energy efficiency, Chairwoman Ann Goggin said. In subsequent meetings, the commission will suggest additional steps for implementing other parts of the plan.

The energy efficiency rating, called a Home Energy Rating System, or HERS, compares results of an energy analysis of a new or existing home or addition to a baseline to come up with a rating – the lower the better. To meet Energy Star guidelines, the rating must be 85 or below. Though Goggin said they would "not require a specific HERS index" figure, they want home buyers to be able to "take it into consideration" when purchasing a home.

Though the recommendations must go through council-level discussion before being implemented as ordinances, Goggin asked councilors to approve two action items at their next meeting.

The first would be to send a letter to the state Legislature urging passage of Property Assessed Clean Energy, a program that would allow homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements using a home-equity type loan that would stay with the property if sold. Goggin asked the council to consider how to implement the program locally, saying there are hedge funds and banks that would be willing to put up money for the loans.

"I don't think capital is the issue," she said. "The issue is really how to get the program set up and how to get the homes qualified and how fast can you do it."

The second action item for the council's consideration is to write letters to the Public Utilities Commission and Central Maine Power Co. to request Smart Meters for residential use in Falmouth. The meters would alert residents to their electrical usage. In petitioning the PUC, the commission would like to see it implement a Residential Time of Use Rate to give homeowners a monetary incentive to tailor their electricity usage to certain times of day.

Other recommendations the commission made Monday include a demonstration project for a cold climate heat pump, to determine if the new technology is practical in this climate; adopting an ordinance requiring commercial buildings to have white roofs that reflect the heat, or vegetated roofs; requiring new buildings to meet strict energy efficiency standards; requiring solar, on-demand or heat pump methods for hot water, and requiring energy-efficient street and parking lights and removal of unnecessary lights.

The commission recommended appointing a new, ad hoc Green Ribbon implementation committee to craft ordinances and bring each to the council for a vote.

After saying he thought many of the recommendations made "a great deal of sense," Councilor Tony Payne expressed concern over the "sense of mandate and the representations of, 'it's not that much more expensive,' but to a property owner, it might be that much more expensive."

He asked that the public have an opportunity to comment during the process, rather than waiting until the ordinances come before the council for a vote.

As the commission proceeds, Councilor Bonny Rodden and Chairwoman Cathy Breen asked it to give priority to examining possible requirements governing wind turbines and solar panels – issues that have become hot topics in several other towns.

The council will take up the commission's recommendation for the letters at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.